My Stagey Week -14
Updated: Apr 16, 2019
So this week taught us all a lesson, don't trust anything you read online, but don't let that put you off reading this blog.
On Thursday afternoon. West End Wilma posted a blog announcing the new casting of the London production of Dear Evan Hansen. In an attempt to scoop an exclusive Wilma was simply perpetuating a rumour, and took great glee when his own website crashed due to the volume of people logging on to read his “exclusive”.
The problem was, there was no exclusive, there was no scoop, there was no story. Well, actually that last part isn't true, there was a story, infact he was creating the story.
The whole incident had stemmed from a post that nineteen year old Trinity Laban student Brandon Marinas showing a letter he believed to have come from the producers of Dear Evan Hansen offering him the role. Although, why Brandon, believing the letter was real, would post it on social media in the first place is questionable.
It was obvious the letter and post wasn't genuine, but it did raise the question what was the motive behind it. Never the less West End Wilma used this to word a misleading tweet, announcing the casting.
At first, I thought it was a genius attempt by Brandon himself to increase his own profile, it certainly had that effect, or was it a hoax? had somebody played a trick on him?
Either way, it was certainly becoming a talking point, with speculation spreading across social media, the story was growing with Marinas at the centre of it.
I felt an obligation to comment on the story, afterall the nature of my blog is to share theatre news, and discussion, and this was certainly fast becoming a hot topic. However I was still sceptical and unsure about the whole thing. Rather than endorse the rumour, I posed the question of it's reliability and addressed it by asking “is this a hoax”?
I then began to think more about the gravity of this situation. If this is a hoax, how would Brandon now be feeling. You'd suspect he'd be mortified and embarrassed. A joke amongst friends is one thing, but to have that joke blown up and plastered across social media for all to see is quite unsettling.
My concerns rose to worry that Brandon might react badly to this incident, and with on going reports of self harming in relation to cyber bullying, it's a valid concern for a young man's well being in the wake of something like this.
Of course, I didn't know by this point what had actually happened or what the outcome was going to be, but already I was feeling the responsibility having reported on the event, did I too have blood on my hands.
Sure enough it turned out to be exactly that. With Broadway World following up the story with a quote from Brandon saying “I've learned a lot these past few days, perhaps this can be a lesson to all performers to be more careful about opportunities they get given. This will just drive me harder to get what I dream of.”
I take it from that, and hope that Brandon has put the whole incident down to experience, but I too have chalked it up as a lesson learnt. I know better than to wade into stories like this, and to spread unfounded rumours. I feel West End Wilma has a responsibility too for breaking the story, and together in the future we should be more aware and more considerate of the people at the heart of these stories, the people who they actually affect and the people who they could damage.
To Brandan Marinas, if you are reading this, I apologise and I sincerely hope that no distress was caused to you.
In actual, checked and verified casting news, the cast of Evita at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre has been announced. The speculation over who would play Eva Peron began earlier this year when director Jamie Lloyd was revealed to be considering actors of colour for the title role.
The news this week comes that American actress Samantha Pauly has landed the role. Joining her will be two other American imports, Ektor Rivera who played Emilio Estefan in On Your Feet! as Juan Peron, and Trent Saunders as Che.
Rumbles of discontent as to why British actors weren’t selected for these roles have already begun to surface.
Canadian choreographer Fabian Aloise has also been announced. I chatted to Fabian earlier in the week, who is very excited to be working on the project, he tells me that it’s going to be unlike any production of Evita ever seen before. I’m excited.
Also announced, the new cast for Drew McOnie’s Jesus Christ Superstar which transfers from Regents Park Open Theatre to the Barbican. The new line up includes Robert Tripolino as Jesus and Ricardo Afonso as Judas, with Sallay Garnett as Mary, Matt Cardle as Pilate, Cavin Cornwall as Caiaphas, and Nathan Amzi as Annas.
Matt Cardle has recently worked with director Drew in his production of Strictly Ballroom.
On Monday I was back at the Space at the Piano Works West End, where for three weeks I hosted the short lived The Show Goes On, and last week threw my birthday party and blog launch. I am back this time, to watch Adam Dawson's solo cabaret, Contemporary Classics.
Adam has performed here earlier in the week along side Alyn Hawke and Ryan Anderson, as the trio presented Guys Sing Dolls. This time Adam showcased his own piano skills, even tackling precariously tricky music by Robert Jason Brown.
I first met Adam, when he was lying bare chested at my feet. He was part of the immersive production of Hair at the Vaults, and I'll admit although he did have a dodgy wig, I was a little distracted by his abs, as he rolled around in character on the fake grass playing a hippy.
Adam went on to play Hanschen in Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre, a stunning production which I absolutely adored.
After this he performed in Seussical the Musical at the Southwark Playhouse a visual and lively production of the children's classic alongside my old flame Robbie Fell.
Joining Adam for his cabaret were special guests Scott Hunter, who I had first seen in Yank at the Charing Cross Theatre. Scott has an exceptional voice, and although I had seen a beautifully emotive performance in Yank, here he was able to show his comic side, by performing 'It's Hard to be the Bard' from Something Rotten! And of course, he smashed it.
Also in fine voice was Adam's second guest, Ronan James Burns. The pair had trained together at Arts Ed, and treated the audience to an adapted performance of 'I Love Betsy' from Honeymoon In Vegas.
As well as his class mates from Arts Ed, it was nice to see cast mates from Spring Awakening and Seussical had come along to support and watch Adam. I also got to catch up with my mate Kate Parr who trained with Adam, Kate has just come back from playing Stephanie in the touring production of Saturday Night Fever. We chatted about the tour as well as what she has coming up and her recent auditions. Kate is beautiful, and asked how my blog was going, saying that she was excited for when she'll get the chance to be interviewed by me. I was flattered, and told her I'd happily interview her. So look out for that one.
On Tuesday I attempted to see The Rubenstein Kiss at the Southwark Playhouse, however my train was delayed due to signalling failure. I abandoned my attempts to make it to Elephant and Castle in time, and with an unexpected free evening, I was able to collect my friend Alistair from Euston station, having travelling down from Liverpool for a few days.
As much as I love theatre, and I love the opportunity to see as much theatre as I do, it can be quite nice just to have a night off. My night off extended into Wednesday, which I had kept free anyway. I was booked to film an episode of Silent Witness during the day, and my call time had moved from 9.30 am to 1.00 in the afternoon. The problem, and what I quietly love about filming, is the uncertainty. Schedules change, filming dates move, and you can never really plan what you are doing. Some days you can nail a scene in one take, and be done in a couple of hours, some shoots can drag and you can be stuck on set for over twelve hours. This was fortunately one of the quickies, with me completing two scenes in under four hours, leaving the rest of my day and entire evening free.
I had been invited to the press night of Singeasy's cinema night. Nestled in the Space at the Piano Works West End, every Wednesday they host a sing-along dining and cinema experience, where my mates Ralph Bogard and Catherine Millsom encourage the diners to sing along as they screen a musical movie. This week it was Grease.
Knowing that I was filming, I had already declined the invitation to attend, incase I wasn't able to make it, however now that I was free, I was tempted to swing by, but instead I continued to enjoy some rest and the chance to catch up with Alistair, and instead we went for dinner in Chiswick, where I trained at Arts Ed.
I spoke to Ralph later in the week who had said the evening had gone well, and judging by the videos that I saw on their instagram feeds, everyone appeared to really enjoy themselves.
On Thursday I had a meeting and catch up for lunch with my friend Ben. I have known Ben for over ten years since we made a movie together. He was originally in the series of Queer As Folk, twenty one years ago, which I love to bring up every time I see him, as I relish reminding him of a notorious masturbation scene in the show. We tried out a new fast food chicken restaurant in Soho, before going for a drink. I then went to visit my friend Sarah, before more drinks in Soho. It was then that I bumped into Shaun McCourt.
Shaun is a trained actor who I first saw in The Railway Children. He has recently started working with Debbie Allen as a casting assistant, and is also the producer of the successful West End Live Lounge series. We chatted about a new show he is producing at the Crazy Coq which will be a two week festival of new music and writing. I recently reached out to, showing him the script for the musical I have written, and he gave me some advice about people I should contact.
Downing another strawberry Rekordlig, I looked at the time and realised I was going to be late. In a frenzy I ran to catch the tube, and in the confusion and cider infused haze I managed to get on the train heading in the wrong direction, it was four stops until I realised. It meant changing trains and added twenty minutes when I was already running late.
I was on my way to Southwark Playhouse to attempt again to see The Rubenstein Kiss, which I had missed on Tuesday because of transport issues. It was a show I was desperate to see, as it has two people I know in it, however this was the final week of the production, and because of other commitments I still hadn't found the time to see it. Knowing that I had other shows booked in for the rest of the week, this was the only chance I was going to get to see it. As I arrived at the theatre, a sweat dripping mess having ran from the tube station, I expected I would have to sneak in late, fortunately for me there had been a technical issue and the show hadn't actually started.
The production was fairly simple in design, centrering around a soletry dining table and chairs. Stephen Billington, who I had come to see wasn't actually in the first act. However Dario Coates, who I also knew, was doing a great job. Dario I had met last year when he performed a brilliant one man play called Sid that was directed by my friend Scott Le Crass and written by Leon Fleming.
Dario naturally has a strong west Yorkshire accent, however in this play serves up a commendable American accent, as well as very pleasing singing voice. Although not a musical, he had to sing during one scene.
Stephen and I have been friends since we met at the Actors Centre where he taught me screen acting. He is probably most notable for roles in Coronation Street and Hollyoaks, although I remember him from a series called Jilly Cooper's The Man Who Made Husband's Jealous, due to a very memorable scene involving Stephen streaking though a garden with carrying a jack russell dog to protect his modesty.
It was a good play based on the lives and executions of Jakob and Esther Rosenberg, there was some stunning performances, in particular from Ruby Bentall playing Esther.
On Friday afternoon I was at the Other Palace for a workshop presentation of a new musical called Murder at the Gates. With book and lyrics by Steven Sater who wrote Spring Awakening, and music by James Bourne who was in the pop band Busted.
The show seems to attempt to be a cross between American TV series Gossip Girl and British classic The Mouse Trap, with both heavily referenced and suggested. The problem is it feels entirely unoriginal. From the poor plot like based around a murder mystery party where a real murder occurs, is it full of cliché.
What attracted me to the production was the incredible cast that they have assembled, including Madalena Alberto, Scott Hunter and original Spring Awakening cast members Evelyn Hoskins and Jamie Muscato.
Collectively they have some of the best voice of people I know, and to coin a phrase I would happily listen to them sing the phone book, which, in this case might have been preferably, as the writing by Steven Sater sadly disappointed.
Jonathan O'Boyle did a favourable attempt at directing the piece which included a random song entirely about biscuits.
It was a nice chance to catch up with Madalena's boyfriend John Addison. They met last year when they both were in the LMTO's production of A Christmas Carol. John is now in School of Rock, and is ridiculously lovely. I also managed to catch up with Steven Dalziel, who was cute and brought flowers for his friend in the cast, which was more than I did. Although I did share a bottle of wine after the show with producer Danielle Tarento, who had produced the original work shop of Murder at the Gates two years ago, we sat and caught up with Susie Safavi.
I was having too much fun gossiping with the girls that I then was late for my evening's engagement watching Pluck. Productions scratch night at their new premises at the Silver Building in East London.
I spoke about scratch nights last week, and how I think they are the way forward, both as an entertaining and great night out for an audience, but also as a great platform for performers and and an opportunity to try out and present new work. This evening's scratch night focused on Queer Stories. They had fewer acts than Shook, but allowed longer segments for each. It was again a collection of spoken work, musical theatre and duologues.
Philip Honeywell and E.J. Martin who founded Pluck. Productions are both performers and are both incredibly well driven and great producers. The pieces were well selected and enjoyable, and the event was well attended, their next scratch night is themed Apologies and will be on Friday 31st May.
For more information visit: www.pluckproductions.com
It was also a pleasant surprise to see Jodie Jacobs and Ralph Bogard as well as Danny Michaels and Kaisa Hammarlund who I had recently seen in Violet at the Charing Cross Theatre.
On Saturday evening I went along to the Bob Hope Theatre to watch the Bromley Players production of Footloose. Conveniently I live in Bromley, so this was nice and handy. I admit I don't see enough amateur dramatics, and although I was there in principle to watch my friend Michael Porter play the coach, it was really nice to see a group of hard working people living life and enjoying themselves. The night was sold out, with audience on their feet.
On Sunday I joined my friend Dev Joshie for a quick drink before we both went along to watch Stewart Brigg's host That Cabaret at Above The Arts. Vikki Lyons was unfortunately ill, so stepping in at only two hours notice was Emma Ralston, she joined Danny Whelan who had performed in a musical called Baby with Dev. It was modestly attended, with Stewart doing a great job of reworking the set list at very short notice.